I just ran across Should Employees Design Their Own Jobs? on one of the Stanford Business School sites. It reminded me of what I saw quite often while running my business – employees design their own jobs, whether you like it or not. Maybe, if you do it right, you can guide, control, or prevent it happening. But, all things being equal, it will.
The Stanford article is about job crafting, which is…
… a set of techniques for helping you reconfigure the elements of your job to spark greater engagement and meaning.
The article talks about three kinds of job crafting:
Task crafting is about retooling the activities included in your job, relational crafting is about revamping your interactions with others, and cognitive crafting is about reframing how you view your tasks and relationships.
Experts like the idea. The article says …
Participating in a job crafting workshop led employees to be significantly happier and more effective in their jobs six weeks later, based on ratings from their peers and managers. Although some job crafting may be good for the employee but not his or her company, our research suggests that, on average, it’s good for both. … Job crafting may also help facilitate creativity and innovation. It’s very difficult for a company to stay innovative if everyone’s job stays the same. We are creatures of habit, and organizations tend to be bureaucracies that impose order and consistency. The default will always be for people to get stuck in the day-to-day and have a lot of trouble taking a step back and seeing opportunities for reshaping their jobs. To quote Karl Weick, creative ideas come from ‘putting new things in old combinations and old things in new combinations.’
What I found in starting, running, and growing a software company was that employees tended to mold their jobs to match what they wanted to do.
The best tech support rep I ever had was a natural talker, extremely empathetic, who really liked people. He was just plain happy to be on the phone, one-on-one with somebody he’d never met, helping that person solve problems. Eventually he took that likability into sales and business development.
Then there was a woman who worked for me whose job started as bookkeeping. She liked organization, she liked arranging tasks, and she liked knowing the details of whatever was going on. She became bookkeeper, controller, and personal assistant.
I had somebody managing tech support who loved databases and programming databases. Not surprisingly, his leadership in tech support led to lots of customer programmed databases that were precursors to some of the support group tools that software companies now buy.
And look at small business owners and entrepreneurs. Some of them are personal leaders who loved meetings and motivating people. Others love marketing and strategy. Some love product. Most of them turn their job into what they like doing. And, as they do it, they believe step by step that is the right thing to do. Furthermore, given human nature, and strengths and weaknesses, usually they are right.